- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Golf writer Barker Davis of The Washington Times takes a closer look at one of the area's public courses.

Course:
Stonewall Golf Club
From the tips: 7,002 yards, par 72
Rating/slope: 74.1/142
Director of Golf: Robert Ford, PGA
Architect: Tom Jackson
Fees: $85-105 Phone: 703/753-5101
Directions: Gainesville, Va. Take I-66 West to Exit 43A. Proceed approximately 2.5 miles before making a left onto Lake Manassas Drive. Make your first right onto Turtle Point Drive, and the clubhouse is immediately on your left.

LAYOUT
One of the top-five plans in the region combines a quirk-free design with some of the Mid-Atlantic's most memorable property. Like its prestigious private neighbor, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Stonewall makes the most of its location along Lake Manassas, with no less than six holes providing stunning views of the water.
Jackson, who did his tutelage under legendary architects Robert Trent Jones and George Cobb before branching out on his own, passes the ultimate litmus test of any designer at Stonewall, crafting a course without a single ho-hum hole. Unlike most area layouts, Stonewall's doesn't include a throwaway, 110-yard par-3 shoe-horned into a cramped routing plan. Like most high-caliber designs, the layout defies easy classification, though playability seems like the design's defining theme. A relatively easy driving course with unusually generous fairways and clear target lines, the course finds its teeth in the fairway. Stonewall is a second-shot golf course, with virtually every approach requiring a high degree of precision. That said, all four of the par-5s are reachable in two and only one green qualifies as severe (No.5). Unless you bring a serious case of the shanks to Stonewall, you should leave the property with your ego intact.
In terms of specifics, the stretch of holes from Nos.10-15 stands out as the most entertaining. Here startling elevation changes, lake-dominated vistas and shot-making demands merge to cement Stonewall's status as a five-star design.

PLAYING SURFACES/CONDITIONS
We played the course in June shortly after it opened, and conditions were virtually flawless. But in the last two months the combination of the drought and heavy play has taken its toll on the young course. Three greens (Nos.11-13) are in desperately stressed shape. And the divot-addled fairways could use some rain and light play.
Expect the bentgrass playing surfaces to improve dramatically with the arrival of the turf-friendly fall. And each successive year of maturity should help the course weather the region's merciless summers better. This is not to say that Stonewall currently provides a disappointing experience in regard to manicuring. But the extremely high standard set by the design, the amenities and the staff currently outstrips conditions.

SERVICE/FACILITIES
With an excellent natural grass range, convenient putting green and full-service clubhouse, Stonewall touches all the necessary bases for the serious player. The starter could cut back on his tedious pre-round spiel, which is long enough to qualify him for a government pension. And the staff could do with some trimming; club cleaners and parking-lot lackeys abound. But nobody will ever walk away feeling ignored.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE/VALUE
A phenomenal piece of property complemented by a sporty design, Stonewall joins Augustine and Raspberry Falls on the short-list of Northern Virginia's premier public facilities. At $85, it's a solid value Monday-Thursday, but you might want to wait until cool weather arrives to improve conditions before you part with $105 for Friday-Sunday play.
With a little more maturity, this should become the only five-flag municipal option between D.C. and Richmond. There isn't a forgettable hole in the mix, and yet Jackson's layout manages to avoid the overly punitive pitfall. RTJ is no longer the only must-play course on Lake Manassas.



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